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Phoenix officers sue over 2010 inquiry

PHOENIX — Three Phoenix police officers as well as one officer’s wife sued
the state’s top prosecutors Tuesday.

The Arizona Republic reports the officers filed a
federal lawsuit accusing state and city staff of trying to prosecute them with
fabricated evidence for political gains. The four of them allege there was
malicious prosecution, conspiracy to violate constitutional rights and emotional
distress.

Officers Steven Peck, Benjamin Sywarungsymun, George Contreras and Aaron Lentz
were indicted in 2010 for allegedly receiving payment for off-duty security work
they never did.

State prosecutors later dismissed the charges after a judge said testimony
presented to the jury may have violated the officers’ due-process rights.

Contreras was the only one indicted again. He is no longer a Phoenix police
officer.

Among the suit’s allegations is that then-Attorney General Terry Goddard wanted
the indictments before his election.

Goddard, who said he had yet to see the lawsuit, called it “outlandish” and
“farfetched.”

The officers say in the suit that state criminal investigator Margaret “Meg”
Hinchey and Paula Veach, of the Phoenix police Professional Standards bureau,
hid and manipulated evidence to prosecute them. They also allege their case was
based on statements obtained through an internal investigation, which should not
have been used in a criminal proceeding.

Current Attorney General Tom Horne was also named in the lawsuit. The
plaintiffs say Horne did not provide adequate training for Hinchey. A
spokeswoman for Horne refrained from comment, saying the initial investigation
took place before he was in office.

A lawyer representing Hinchey, who recently accused Horne of taking part in a
cover-up and destroying records that could reveal criminal activity, would not
comment. Hinchey has already corresponded with the FBI in a separate inquiry
involving Horne’s staff. Federal agents are still investigating her claims,
which Horne has said are false.

Phoenix police declined to comment on pending litigation.

The officers are asking for damages and attorneys’ fees. An earlier notice of
claim to the lawsuit had asked for $9.5 million.

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Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com